A lot of people think that in order to get better at something, you need to practice.

What most people fail to realise though is how important it is to do the right type of practice.

Take this example: Who would be a better driver? Someone with 45,000 hours over 25 years of experience driving, or someone with less than the magical 10,000 hours and less than 7 years experience?

Most people would say that the more experienced person would be better and more skilled.

After all, for a taxi driver, driving is their entire profession, and they can easily be in their car for more than 45,000 hours over 25 years on the job.

However, let’s take someone much younger.

For example, someone who is only 15 years old.

Not even old enough to have a driving license.

Surely they can’t be a better driver, can they?

Well, Lewis Hamilton definitely was.

Now known as one of the most successful Formula 1 racing drivers of all time, Lewis Hamilton started kart racing at the age of 8 in 1993. He quickly showed his potential and began kart racing competitively. By 1998 (at the age of 13) he was signed to the McLaren driver development program, and by 15 was racing in the Formula A.

All before the age when most of us could even fail our first driving test (we all did that, right?).

What is important here is not to show that Lewis Hamilton was extremely talented. Even with talent, there were not enough hours in the day for him to spend as much time driving in those 7 years as the professional taxi drivers did in 25.

The difference was in how he chose to focus on improvement instead of just practice.

This is the basis of deliberate practice.

Spending time focused on improving specific aspects of your skills until they reach a higher level you are happy with, and then working towards the next level.

This is in contrast to unfocused practice, where people often either just repeat the exact same thing over and over again, or even worse, spend time “practicing” without actually working to improve at all (a classic example here is someone who puts on a yoga outfit, takes out their yoga mat, and then meets friends at the yoga studio cafe without ever doing any exercises. Yet some of these people would still claim they are doing yoga…)

This same principle works for any creative or performance skill you are trying to improve.

If you set yourself targets about specific aspects of your skill you want to improve, and how you will measure improvement, you will be much more likely to reach the next level of performance much faster.

So while it is important to stick with developing your skills, you will get better much faster with deliberate practice.

Did you know that scientific evidence shows your creativity decreases over time

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Creativity & Innovation expert: I help individuals and companies build their creativity and innovation capabilities, so you can develop the next breakthrough idea which customers love. Chief Editor of Ideatovalue.com and Founder / CEO of Improvides Innovation Consulting. Coach / Speaker / Author / TEDx Speaker / Voted as one of the most influential innovation bloggers.